Accountant finds out that working at TJJD paves way for college loan forgiveness
By Barbara Kessler, TJJD Communications
Ashley Neamtz was determined to get her business degree and after that get out of the accumulated debt that her hard-earned college education had created.
She found the answer in public service employment with the State of Texas. She first worked at the Department of Transportation, then joined TJJD, where she is the Senior Ledger Accountant.
Her state service qualified her for the Federal Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Under this program, if she worked 10 years for the state and repaid her loans according to her income level, she could have the remaining balance of the loan forgiven.
“I was skeptical,” she said of the program, which required her to consolidate several loans she had accrued over the seven years she had gone to college. “I thought they were going to come up with an excuse for this (his decade of payments) not to count.”
That’s not what happened, but let’s go back to the beginning.
Life events meant that Neamtz University had not happened all at once in four years, and no one had helped fund it. When she graduated from high school, there was no college nest egg ready. His family couldn’t afford it.
Each year, Neamtz, then Ashley Cutright, took out loans to cover college expenses, first at Arkansas Tech University in his hometown, then in Texas. She had to quit and start school, while married to a military man and raising their first child, and it took her seven years to complete her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Texas A&M Central Texas in Killeen.
After graduating in 2011, she found her mosaic of loans growing alarmingly, due to compound interest and despite her regular payments. She remembers paying $500 a month and noticing that $499 went to interest.
Another time, she calculated that it would take her about 50 years to pay off the rising bill, which after 10 years was about 25% more than the amount of the loans she had taken out, despite those regular payments. .
She had heard stories and read news articles about snafus with government loan forgiveness programs. These have periodically brought to light horror stories of people who thought they had completed their 10 years of charitable or government work, but were told a technicality prevented forgiveness.
Still, it seemed like the only way out of a debt that had reached just over $100,000.
She enrolled in the “Income Driven Payment” scheme, faithfully paid the prescribed amounts – which amounted to a few thousand each year depending on her income – and saw her approach the 10-year mark.
By then, she had risen to a management position at TJJD, had two sons, ages 16 and 7, and was newly married and expecting a child with her second husband.
With her eldest son approaching college age and their family about to outgrow their three-bedroom home in Georgetown, it seemed like the right time for that college debt to be taken out.
And then it happened.
On a Friday night in September, she received an email saying “there has been a change in your loan.”
“So I looked at the papers and my balances were zero!” said Neamtz.
“I was immediately on the phone with my husband. He was traveling for work. He was like, ‘Are you serious?’ We were both freaking out a bit. It’s a big weight that’s been hanging over you for so long.
The party they had talked about celebrating would have to wait, but mental relief washed over them.
“I feel a thousand times better, simple decisions will be a lot easier. I’m about to have three kids and I have a 3-bedroom house,” she said, noting that it’s difficult to apply for a mortgage or a car loan when there’s a lot of college debt on the books.
“These loans hold you back from everyday life,” Neamtz said.
She is also relieved that the household is on solid financial footing as her eldest son contemplates college.
“I was worried about how I’m going to pay my loans and his,” she said. “I’m also not going to let them (his boys) make the same mistake I did. My parents had no financial knowledge. And I didn’t understand compound interest. because I didn’t borrow $103,000, that’s exactly what it ended up being.
To benefit from the PSLF, you must:
Steps to start:
- Find out if your employer qualifies – TJJD does it!
- Certify your employment every year
- Apply for a pardon once you have met the requirements (see above)
There is a Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool (you might want to take a refreshment and sit down before reading, because this Help Tool is, ahem, very helpful and might get your mind spinning head. But you will get the information you need. )
Public service loan forgiveness programs offer certain benefits, which expires October 31, 2022. Learn more about these, which as a PSLF waiver program – so you can apply before the deadline, if you qualify!